Cape Town is awash with an an ever-changing crop of buzzing bars and hangouts fit for any occasion (or none at all). So much so, it’s quite a thing to keep up with them all! But we managed…
We hit the Mother City running, sniffing out the hot new watering holes, and here’s what we found.
Do you know of any buzzy bars you think we should hear about? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
1. The Athletic Club & Social
With tasselled bucket chairs covered in velvet, herringbone wooden floors decked with layers of Persian rugs, leather booths and marble tabletops, this sophisticated watering hole feels like a dream you can touch. Housed in a restored three-storey heritage building dating back to 1900, it’s home to three bars and a restaurant. Drenched in history, the building once served as an underground speakeasy of sorts where people from all walks could socialise (without being arrested for violating the Group Areas Act during apartheid).
As for the food (Mediterranean-style tapas), it’s excellent, as is the service and ambience.
Opening times Monday – Thursday, 12pm – 11pm
Friday – Saturday, 12pm – 2am (kitchen closes at 10pm)
Contact 021 012 533, email@example.com
Where to find it 35 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town
2. The Art of Duplicity
Hidden in a former warehouse at the back of an 1894 storefront, this roaring speakeasy in Cape Town’s East City takes its cue from the prohibition Twenties, an era during which illegal establishments thrived on high society’s debaucherous lifestyles. As such, you’ll find Mae West and Al Capone lookalikes enjoying the vibe – and top-drawer tipples – though the dress code is not obligatory.
The drinks Mixology god Brent Perremore is behind some of the best cocktail menus in Cape Town, and has upped the ante with a selection that has as much substance as it has style. Alas, the best does come at a price. Cocktails range between R120 and R160.
The food If you’re hungry, we recommend the charcuterie and cheese platter. It’s divine.
Opening times Tuesday – Saturday, 6pm – 12am
Where to find it Now, that would be telling…
3. The Commissary
From the international-award-winning team behind The Shortmarket Club, comes this no-fuss casual bar and eatery where unfathomably delicious dishes and top-notch tipples are the order of the evening. Under the mentorship of Luke Dale Roberts, talented chef Wesley Randles of The Shortmarket Club heads the kitchen, with seasoned restaurateur Simon Widdison overseeing the front of house.
Located in the space formerly occupied by Outrage of Modesty, the colourful 45-seater is well-suited to modern diners who have things to do and places to go. Whet your whistle with a vast selection of wines, innovative cocktails, and local beers. And, if you’re hungry, tuck into casual, flavour-packed plates, such as fig-leaf baked ricotta, octopus sliders, beef tartare, Korean-fried chicken, Massaman lamb-curry roti, pork katsu sliders, and panna cotta with peaches.
Good to know No reservations are taken to prior to arrival as tables are seated on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 6pm – 10.30pm
Contact 021 422 2902, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it 88 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town
4. Frogitt & Vonkel
Set in a 200-year-old heritage building that drips with character and charm, this Bree Street bar is an absolute must-visit for anyone who’s serious about good-quality, limited-edition, small-batch wines. With over 30 boutique wines available by the glass, and a selection of local artisanal spirits and Striped Horse draft beers, passionate and knowledgeable owner John Woodward will tantalise your taste buds with some absolute pearlers.
We love The neighbourly Cheers vibe. John greets his customers by name, and they, in turn, leave with a proposed return date: “See you on Friday.”
Good to know If you’re peckish, order a cheese and charcuterie board to accompany your tipples. If you’re more than peckish, pop across the corridor to Grub & Vine, a fabulous bistro that serves honest, made-to-perfection dishes.
Opening times Tuesday – Saturday, 12pm – 12am
Sunday, 12pm – 6pm
Contact 087 898 2206, email@example.com
Where to find it 103 Bree Street, Cape Town
5. Dark Horse Bar
When this new kid on the Kloof Street block opened towards the end of 2018, locals’ ears were pricking up all over town. From the same owners as the popular Black Sheep across the way, the aptly named watering hole serves a selection of tasty tipples (think lemon-drop martinis, gin fizz and classic Manhattans) and delectable tapas-inspired dishes. The interior is plush and moody décor, with front benches offering the perfect place to people watch, and an outside deck boasting wonderful views of the mountain.
Opening times Wednesday – Saturday, 4pm until late
Contact 021 422 0825, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it 145 Kloof Street, Cape town
6. Publik Wine Bar
This dedicated winebar on Kloof Nek Road is the stuff (sustainable) vino dreams are made of. Boasting a slew of bottles from local, organic farms and vineyards, you can be sure you’re getting top-notch booze for your buck, and something new and exciting each time you visit.
The vibe is lively, with everyone from suits and connoisseurs to 20-something locals looking for a place to whet their whistle at this cool locale.
And, if you’re hungry, they have a great selection of local and imported cured meats and cheeses, as well as some gourmet small plates (such as meatballs, white anchovies in olive oil, burrata, and Frankie Fenner lamb belly strips) to fill the gap.
Good to know If you want to learn while you sip, ask one of the resident connoisseurs for a breakdown of all things tanin-, tone- and fragrance-related.
Opening times Monday – Friday, 4pm – 11pm
Saturday, 12pm – 6pm
Where to find it 11D Kloof Nek Road, Gardens, Cape Town
7. The Botanical Bar
The savvy people behind Honest Chocolate Café, The Gin Bar, and Marrow are at the forefront Cape Town’s current obsession: botanicals – the wonderful assortment of fresh, fragrant and foraged stuff that abounds in our oceans, mountains and forests.
Holding the title of the Mother City’s first botanical-inspired bar, the aptly named hotspot is a firm favourite for lovers of the (real) good stuff, and boasts a cool interior lined with bottles small-batch liquor. As for the beautifully presented craft-gin cocktails, they’re as good to look at as they are to sip.
Opening times Monday, 11.30am – 2.30pm
Tuesday – Friday, 11.30 – 2am
Saturday, 4pm – 2am
Contact 076 124 4639, email@example.com
Where to find it 160 Longmarket Street, Cape Town
This chic, rambling bar is a buzzy addition to the exquisite, manicured gardens and historic architecture of The Alphen Boutique Hotel. The stunning views, swish décor and superb selection of curated cocktails and lip-smacking small bites make it a fab spot for after-work drinks, pre-dinner palate warmers, or sophisticated date nights with an edge.
Opening times Monday – Friday, 4pm – 12am
Saturday, 12pm – 12am
Sunday, 12pm – 9pm
Contact 021 795 6300, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Alphen Drive, Constantia, Cape Town
9. Cause Effect
From owner Kurt Schlechter, and his righthand men James “Trigger” Phillips and Marshall Siavash, comes this exciting cocktail kitchen just off Kloof Street that turns traditional tipples on their heads: a must for cocktail-lovers who want to broaden their horizons.
Sit at the bar, and watch the maestros creating bold and expertly crafted tipples. We recommend starting with a light aperitif (including the extinct Caperitif, reborn in the Cause Effect kitchen), followed by a selection of traditional brandy-based cocktails infused with fynbos flavours, homemade tinctures and fresh herbs. And end with a jaw-dropping experiential cocktail!
Opening times Tuesday – Friday, 12pm – 1:30am
Saturday,12pm – 1.30am
Contact 021 422 0266, email@example.com
Where to find it 2A Park Road, MLT House, Gardens, Cape Town
Hidden behind the courtyards of Patina and El Burro in the Newlands Quarter, this cosy-cocktail-lounge-meets-secret gin bar is the perfect spot to enjoy a pre-dinner aperitif, or an expertly crafted night cap with a selection of tapas, before heading off to dinner at one of the neighbouring restaurants.
A dimly lit interior, with plush couches, fireplaces in winter, wooden bar stools, and a ceiling draped in hanging ferns, creates a romantic atmosphere. A first of its kind in the southern suburbs, it’s no wonder this sophisticated spot is gaining daily traction among locals looking to whet their whistles in style.
Opening times Tuesday – Saturday, 1pm – 12am
Contact 021 824 3367, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Newlands Quarter, Corner of Dean and Main Street, Newlands, Cape Town
A collaboration between 24-year-old brewer James Williams (Rosebank Brewing Company) and Italian-food whizzes Matteo Santini and Maurizio Carlo (Woodlands Eatery), this new taproom on Kloof Street is, as its name implies, unadulterated and unpretentious – where excellent beer and uncomplicated, flavourful dishes do the talking.
“We initially wanted a very small menu,” says James, “but considering all the different types of people Kloof Street attracts, we had to be more eclectic with our food offering.” As such you’ll find thin-crust pizzas, tasty tacos, vibrant salads and juicy burgers.
Drinks-wise, there are currently eight craft beers on tap (with another eight in the pipeline), a selection of local wines, and fun cocktails.
Knockout nu-disco beats, coupled with simple interiors (of a characterful, heritage building) and friendly staff (who make their work look like such fun) make Unfiltered the perfect place for spontaneous after-work gatherings, rain or shine.
Don’t miss Unfiltered Fridays with a live DJ and mega vibes.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 12pm – 10pm
Contact 060 615 4917, email@example.com
Where to find it 18 Kloof Street, Cape Town
12. Martini Terrazza Lounge at Villa 47
Villa 47 – the three-in-one Italian Emporium housed in an iconic heritage building on Bree Street – is home to Martini Terrazza Courtyard Lounge, a sophisticated martini lounge where the Italian sensibilities of aperitivo entertaining are the order of the day. Here, patrons are encouraged to whet their appetites with (and make an occasion of) pre-dinner drinks.
While cutting-edge cocktails are the main event, at Martini Terrazza Lounge you’ll also be able to enjoy a selection of small plates with your drinks. Crafted by effervescent resident chef Clayton Bell, the designed-to-share dishes blend authentic Italian flavours with a hint of the Orient.
Good to know The downstairs restaurant Locanda is a favourite for made-with-love Italian dishes, while the spacious top floor is designated for functions and events.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 5pm until late
Contact 021 418 2740, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it 47 Bree Street, Cape Town City Centre
13. Milk & Honey Bar
This Parisian-style locale on the corner of buzzing Bree Street serves a selection of designer tipples, including exclusive malts, bubbly and wine. Sparkling chandeliers, marble countertops and brass accents add an air of sophistication, making it the perfect spot for an intimate date night or girls night out. And, should you get peckish, the food menu has some exciting items, such as duck-and-cherry pot pie and buttermilk-fried chicken brioche.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 10.30am – 2am
Contact 087 470 0160, email@example.com
Where to find it 42 Hans Strijdom Avenue, Foreshore, Cape Town
This cool and contemporary rooftop bar on the Camps Bay strip is brought to you by The Kove Collection (whose ever-expanding portfolio of restaurants and bars includes Bilboa, Lily’s, Blanko, Paranga, Incognito, Bobo’s and Bungalow, to name a few). With killer views of the ocean a stone’s throw away, it’s the ideal place to while away the hours sipping on refreshing cocktails and listening to the coolest beats by Cape Town’s finest DJs. A menu of seaside café classics means that you can stay for a light dinner, too.
Insider tip On Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, resident DJs take you on a musical journey, as they spin cool tunes from 6pm till 10pm.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 4pm – 10pm
Contact 021 286 5075, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Shop 120, Second Floor, The Promenade Building, Victoria Road, Camps Bay
Researched by Kent Cloete, Nikki Benatar, and Michelle de Bruin
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